True Grit: Music from the Classic Films of John Wayne

True Grit: Music from the Classic Films of John Wayne


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This CD by the City of Prague Philharmonic, conducted by Paul Bateman, fills in some gaping holes in the film music catalog. Hooked around John Wayne's films, the range of composers and styles -- and subjects, from Westerns to the World War II navy -- is sufficiently diverse to make it a very rich and rewarding experience. The music from the John Ford movies featured, all Westerns, is largely folk-based, in keeping with the director's taste and wishes. The disc opens with "Stagecoach: Narrative for Orchestra," a six-and-a-half minute suite adapted from the Oscar-winning score for the 1939 Ford film which was, itself, largely based on folk themes. The orchestra plays with just the right level of vigor to capture something of the excitement and sense of adventure of the film itself, and the Copland-like score is a delight to hear in state-of- the-art sound (although the makers could've left out the finale music). "Leaving the Fort" from She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, based on the tune referred to in the film's title, is astonishingly rousing, and played with the kind of care that one hasn't seen in this kind of re-recorded movie score since the days when Charles Gerhardt was conducting for RCA-Victor, nearly 30 years ago. The Max Steiner music from Stagecoach is also present, in a beautifully realized seven-and-a-half minute suite which, with its ravishing melodies, overall dark sonorities, and light-hearted moments of lyricism, belongs in a concert hall rather than up on a movie screen, and may be the best work of Steiner's late career. For some reason, the producers have elected to feature a pair of overtures, Dimitri Tiomkin's to The Alamo and Alfred Newman's for How The West Was Won, that are widely available in other venues. The performances of both are quite good; indeed, Tiomkin's Alamo overture gets the kind of idealized treatment that makes the official recording seem pale in comparison. The Longest Day march, authored by Paul Anka, comes off as trivial in this company. Much more important is Jerry Goldsmith's score for In Harm's Way, a soundtrack (on RCA) that has never been reissued -- "The Rock, " depicting the maneuverings of the forces under Wayne's command, actually took on a life of its own on public television for many years, as the opening theme of the public affairs show Agronsky & Company; "Intermezzo: The Rock and His Lady" is a lovely piece of music, a slowly building, gently lyrical romantic idyll; and "Finale: First Victory," an amazingly modernist piece of music, almost atonal in its content, makes its first appearance on CD. Elmer Bernstein's rousing yet gently nostalgic score to True Grit is represented by its overture, and John Williams' epic (and very Copland-esque) overture from The Cowboys, nine minutes of glowing Western-theme material, closes the CD.

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